Comprehensive Planning Facts

A planning partnership

Planning makes good sense. Thinking ahead produces better results than just charging ahead without a vision, goals, or plans. 

Planning by local governments—including townships, cities and countiesenables them to grow and change in ways they can afford and to become the type of community they want to be. 

The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning agency charged with planning and coordinating the growth and development of the seven-county metropolitan area. While local governments focus on planning for their communities, the Council is responsible for regional services that communities need. The two coordinate their efforts by taking part in a process of plan-making, negotiations, and final review of the local plans by the Council. 

In this process, local communities and the Metropolitan Council are partners in planning for the future. 

photo from above of apartments next to the river

Communities set the vision for their future 

photo of three people consulting mapsAt least once every 10 years, city councils, town boards, and county boards throughout the region take on a very important job – to update their local comprehensive plans. A local comprehensive plan represents a community’s vision of how it wants to grow and change – how it will develop its land, redevelop older areas, ensure adequate housing, provide roads and sewers, protect natural areas, and meet other community objectives. 

State law sets stage for comprehensive planning

State law requires the Council to create regional plans and policies to guide growth and manage regional systems for transportation, aviation, water resources, and regional parks. The law also requires local governments to update their comprehensive plans.

Under the law, the Council reviews local comprehensive plans to ensure they are in accord with the overall framework provided by the regional plans. The review helps determine how a community’s planned actions relate to the interests of the whole region over the long term. It helps ensure that costly public infrastructure, like roads and sewers, are built in an economical and coordinated fashion, so that user fees and tax dollars are spent wisely. 

Once the Council completes the review process for a comprehensive plan or amendment, the local government can implement it through zoning ordinances, capital budgets for public improvements, and other actions. 

Planning begins with Census 

The planning cycle begins with the release of data from the decennial U.S. Census. The Census provides a starting point for the Council to develop forecasts of regional and local changes in population and the number of households and jobs looking ahead 10, 20, and 30 years. 

The Council uses this information to update its regional system plans to accommodate the forecasted changes. In May 2014, the Council adopted the overall development framework, Thrive MSP 2040. Between December 2014 and April 2015, the Council adopted updated system plans for regional parks, transportation, and water resources, as well as a policy plan for housing. And in September 2015, the Council issued System Statements to each of the region's 188 local jurisdictions. These individualized documents show the counties and municipalities how they are affected by changes in the system plans. 

Local governments must submit their updated comprehensive plans by Dec. 31, 2018, to the Council for review. Council staff assists communities as they develop, implement, and amend their plans. 

Council offers technical assistance, planning grants

photo of buildings in downtown MinneapolisThe Council provides resources and planning assistance to communities throughout the region to support coordinated, cost-effective growth. Sector representatives serve as liaisons between the Council and local governments. Each sector representative serves a specific group of communities. Sector representatives provide information, technical expertise, and resource referrals to local governments related to developing and implementing local comprehensive plans.

The Council's Local Planning Handbook is a one-stop shop for guidance, information, and technical assistance for communities working to complete their comprehensive plan updates. Simple, plain-language “how to” sections help local planners and officials understand what is required to be included in their local plans. For communities that want to go beyond the planning requirements, the Handbook provides additional data resources and tools.

Each community will find their own individual Community Page in the Handbook. These pages include local forecasts, an affordable housing allocation, sewer forecasts, a Thrive community designation and the policies specific to that community type, and more.

The Council's PlanIt program is another avenue of education for the 2040 comprehensive plan update process. PlanIt includes webinars, workshops and conferences. It also expands the Local Planning Handbook’s online resources with a series of online tutorials and expert articles on a range of topics related to comprehensive planning.
Other planning resources include Make-A-Map, which allows users to build custom maps about the land uses, resources and infrastructure for a city, county, or the entire metro area.

The Council also offers financial resources—a total of nearly $2 million—for qualifying communities to update their comprehensive plans in the current update cycle. Grants are targeted to smaller communities with limited financial resources.

For more information

Visit the Council's Local Planning Assistance website.